Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member
The 2017 Dayton Buddy Walk® will be held on Saturday, September 16th; the Miami Valley Down Syndrome Association launched this year’s fundraising site on World Down Syndrome Day, March 21st. In anticipation of this year’s event, I had the privilege of chatting with one of Dayton’s top team captains, Carolyn Lee, to learn about her team and how she exceeded her fundraising goal last year.
Celebrating their 10th year at the Dayton Buddy Walk® this year, Carolyn’s team represents her two children with Down syndrome: Anthony, who is 18 years old, and Destiny, who is 16. Their team’s name, Lee’s Dynamic Duo, honors the resiliency of Anthony and Destiny. They have overcome a lot in their lives, and Carolyn wanted the team’s name to illustrate their strength. The team has grown a great deal since the first time Carolyn attended a walk; that year, she just observed, as she was new to the Down syndrome community and didn’t quite know what was going on. After that year, though, she was inspired and began brainstorming ideas for developing her own team. Each year, she has built upon the progress she and her team made the previous year. In January or February, she begins sending “save the date” cards to members of her church, so that people can begin setting aside money to donate. She invites her kids’ teachers to attend, and even has even found support from her state representative, Fred Strahorn. She simply asks people to support her team, and even considers her mouth the most successful fundraising tactic she uses. “They can only say two things,” she shared, “I put a big grin on my face and go for it. I let them know about the Buddy Walk, and let them know how the kids are able to go to camp. If I believe in something, I promote it.”
It is clear that Carolyn strongly believes in the Dayton Buddy Walk® and the programming that is offered by the Miami Valley Down Syndrome Association: her team exceeded their goal last year! By simply asking for donations, by holding team fundraisers like bake sales and yard sales, and by encouraging donors to seek employer matches, Carolyn has found great success in her fundraising efforts. She has even found assistance from her team members, some of whom have run fundraisers for Carolyn when family circumstances wouldn’t allow her to do the legwork. She has learned “if you treat people right, if you are nice to them, then when you have something going on, they have no problem supporting you.”
Carolyn also seeks donations from local businesses and organizations. She explained that she always takes information about the walk event to the kids’ primary care doctors and dentists. Her dentist has added the walk to his calendar as an annual event, so that he remembers to make a donation to support Carolyn’s team. This type of effort is very special to Carolyn.
When her team members attend the walk, she hopes that they get to see that children with Down syndrome are anything they want to be. She wants them to see the “love and togetherness and warmth that the kids and adults with Down syndrome offer each and every one of us,” and that experience makes her team members smile. Carolyn shows her appreciation for her team members each year by making gifts for them; from water bottles with candy in them to votive candles with the kids’ photos on them and even homemade baked goods, it’s her way of showing her love and appreciation for the continued love and support people show Lee’s Dynamic Duo. Everyone who walks with her team receives a gift that is handmade by Carolyn, and she is busy coming up with a theme for this year’s gift. “The Buddy Walk is the best time of the year,” Carolyn shared. Her passion for this event was evident in our conversation, and I look forward to seeing her team’s progress at the 2017 Dayton Buddy Walk®.
This post is a part of our ongoing Walk Team Spotlight blog series, which profiles Down syndrome walk teams sharing their unique backstories, as well as fundraising, recruitment and networking tips! Check back for future posts in this series coming soon. Submit your story ideas to: firstname.lastname@example.org.